Doug Linkhart is the survivor. He won the reality-TV-style alt-Denver Mayoral debate hosted last night by NewEra Colorado, OneColorado and Planned Parenthood– the best candidate forum ever™. The Montclair-neighborhood Democrat, an at-large city councilman and former state representative and senator took a laid-back Linkhart approach to the event. He coasted through early rounds of questioning and shined at the end, espousing an updated version of a 1960s platform that would shift focus and resources from prisons to schools, turbocharge green energy development and implementation in the city and legalize pot.
“Look, we’ve tripled our prison population in the last twenty years,” he said to open a final address that won over the packed room at Casselman’s. He compared the thriving prison system to the struggling school system. He was unabashedly pro-pot but managed to tie that position to police and prison reform and youth culture without being didactic or striving, playing a kind of down-low political music from the stage that connected.
When he stopped speaking, shouts went up, mobile phone screen lights danced above moving heads and the big screen behind the candidates that flashed the results of the crowd’s text-message voting told the rest of the story.
In the last round, where each of the remaining candidates– Michael Hancock, Linkhart, James Mejia and Chris Romer–said just a minute or so of whatever they wanted to the audience, Linkhart had zoomed from the middle of the pack to the uncontested top spot with 33 percent of the votes.
Hancock came in second place at 27 percent and Romer and Mejia tied at 20 percent.
On the stage at the end, as DJ Lazy Eyez spun the music higher, Linkhart did a louche version of the “The Dougie” and Romer and Hancock took turns swilling local Fox News reporter and debate panelist Eli Stokols’ beer, moving to the beat with an “ah well maybe next time” look on their faces.
The debate opened with NewEra’s MTV Cribs-style video of visits to the candidates homes. Then came a round of trivia. “What’s the population of Denver?” (Just over 600,000) “Which of the following beers is brewed in Denver?” (Great Divide!) “What percentage of Denver residents are renters?” (48 percent!)
Talking points and any general typical politician misdirection– ie, lazy droning about liberty or freedom, etc– was quashed quickly by booing from the crowd or by waving “bull” signs held up by the panelists, which in addition to Stokols, included radio talk show host Mario Solis and Strong Colorado communications specialist Ellen Dumm.
Although talking points were given the hand or the bull sign, facts were allowed and encouraged.
Linkhart at one point trotted out this one: Colorado schools rank 49 out of 50 in the nation when it comes to funding.
Romer added this: When businesses want to open in Denver, the first question they ask is not about taxes, not about whether Colorado is a red state or a blue state. The first question is Does Denver have good schools?
The answer to that question, given the anemic funding, the high dropout rate and the low graduation rate is… Give us time. We’re getting there.
Senator Michael Bennet wanted to send a video for the occasion. He sent his wife instead, Susan Dagget.
“The Senator is in Washington wrestling with the budget and a possible government shutdown, which is like a form of ‘Survivor’,” she said. “I’m sure he’d like to vote some people there off the island.”
Park Hill candidate Carol Boigon trailed the pack. She didn’t connect with the youth crowd. Her text-message votes reached only to the low single digits.
“Hey don’t feel bad,” said Stokols, adding something like: “You got more votes than I would have gotten here: I work for Fox News.”
[ Top image: Linkhart (Ernest Luning); last image: Chris Romer shakes hands and sizes up the crowd (Tomasic). ]